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Israel toughens visa-free rules - Ukrainian embassy reacts strongly

Israel toughens visa-free rules - Ukrainian embassy reacts strongly Photo: What is known about the visa-free situation between Ukraine and Israel (Getty Images)

Israel has decided to tighten visa-free conditions for foreigners, including Ukrainians, requiring them to obtain an electronic entry permit first. The new rules have sparked criticism from the Ukrainian and Moldovan embassies, while Israeli diplomatic circles label it as a "storm in a teacup."

RBC-Ukraine details everything known about this situation.

In June, Israel began testing the ETA-IL system, under which foreigners eligible for visa-free entry must first apply for a travel permit. Currently, this rule applies to citizens of the USA and Germany, with all travelers required to apply voluntarily starting from July 1, and mandatory from August 1.

The new regulations have drawn criticism from the Ukrainian Embassy in Israel. According to the embassy, Israel's restrictions "effectively put an end to visa-free travel." Simultaneously, the embassy stated that Ukraine plans to implement reciprocal measures.

"In response, Ukraine will introduce similar pre-approval requirements for Israeli citizens, including pilgrims. The specifics of these electronic visas are currently under review in Kyiv. These mutual actions will impact thousands of religious pilgrims who annually visit Ukraine," as stated on the Ukrainian embassy's Facebook page.

Similar sentiments were echoed yesterday by Moldovan Ambassador to Israel, Alexander Roitman. He mentioned that Chisinau may implement a similar pre-approval entry system for Israeli citizens in response to Tel Aviv's actions.

"The reciprocal measures will also affect thousands of religious pilgrims that go to Ukraine annually through the territory of Moldova. The details and the format of the further actions are under examination by the Moldovan Authorities and will be communicated on a later stage," the statement on the Moldovan embassy's Facebook page read.

However, a source from Israeli diplomatic circles characterized these statements as "a storm in a teacup."

"It's about the widely accepted practice of electronic declarations before the arrival of tourists from visa-exempt countries. This practice has been used for many years, for example, by Canada. When a tourist who does not require a visa must fill out a declaration before entering Canada, based on which they can enter the country," the interlocutor said.

The source also suggested that someone at the Ukrainian embassy in Israel misinterpreted the concept of "visa-free regime."

"A visa-free regime does not mean that every citizen can enter Israel or any other country. In any case, every country has the right to deny entry to certain individuals. This measure, being introduced, is aimed at screening out those who do not have the right to enter Israel at an early stage. Thus, preventing situations where a person arrives in Israel, for example, for illegal employment, and needs to be deported," the interlocutor emphasized, noting that this applies to all countries with which Israel has a visa-free agreement, not just Ukraine.

Additionally, the source speculated that the reaction from the Ukrainian embassy in Israel to this decision is related to the upcoming pilgrimage to Uman and a desire to exert pressure on Israel.

"Exactly a year ago, we faced a similar situation when the Ukrainian embassy threatened to cancel visa-free travel with Israel. Last year, nothing happened, and nothing will happen this year," the interlocutor concluded.

A similar situation between Ukraine and Israel has indeed occurred before. In August, the Ukrainian embassy criticized Israel for creating obstacles for Ukrainian refugees entering the country and stated that in response, Ukraine might prohibit pilgrimage to Uman and potentially cancel visa-free travel. For more details on this, read the link.